When a customer walks into a cannabis dispensary, the person they will interact with the most is a budtender. Budtenders are responsible for helping consumers find the right cannabis products for them. The best budtenders are passionate about cannabis, exceptionally knowledgeable about products, and thrive on providing great customer service.
A budtending job is similar to other retail gigs—they are the ones building direct relationships with customers, and a great attitude and strong work ethic are keys for success. But it does have many aspects that set it apart.
Regardless of which state market you’re hoping to enter, there are a few basic commonalities to be aware of before sending out job applications. Here are some important things to keep in mind before applying.
Do background research on companies that are hiring
The cannabis industry has exploded in the past several years and the number of companies to potentially work for can seem daunting. But, at the same time, it allows you to be picky about where to apply.
Do some research before jumping right to applications—with background checks, onboarding procedures, and individual company hiring policies, the process of getting a dispensary job can be long and involved, so finding out about the company you could be working for is crucial before putting in all that effort.
Think about values you’d like your ideal employer to embody. Most dispensaries list their mission statement right on their website and will say if they are minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-led, a local start-up, etc. More information about any company’s licensing, owners, or investors should be accessible through your state’s cannabis control bureau or commission.
How to make a budtending career a reality
Have customer service experience
At the end of the day, a dispensary is still a store, so having some prior experience in a retail or customer service role is crucial to landing a budtender job. Different companies will have different standards for prior experience, but any previous job involving serving customers or selling products should be emphasized on your application.
Ultimately you will be selling cannabis products in a traditional retail sense, but a large part of a budtender’s role is to serve the needs of the customer—the ability to make connections, listen and understand dispensary customers and patients, and to have a helpful attitude are essential to becoming a successful budtender.
As a budtender, you’ll build trust and forge bonds with repeat customers and patients. In applications, try to emphasize past experience where you went out of your way to fulfill a customer’s needs and wants.
Be careful with budtender certification programs, at least for now. While a number of existing programs do offer a comprehensive curriculum, some of them don’t thoroughly prepare you for a job in the cannabis industry.
If you’re considering enrolling in a certification program, look at the results previous graduates have had before spending money on certification. Does the company have proof that their graduates get hired? If not, it could be a waste of money.
What to know before you visit a dispensary for the first time
Be passionate about cannabis
This one is a given—you wouldn’t be looking to land a budtender job without some passion for cannabis and the array of products dispensaries offer.
When applying to dispensaries, emphasize the personal effect cannabis has had on your life—whether you’re a medical patient who has found the perfect strain to cure migraines, a hobbyist cook who infuses cannabis into dishes, or maybe you just like to smoke a bowl while relaxing with your friends. Whatever it may be, there’s a reason you connect with cannabis enough to enter the industry.
The best budtenders have rich, powerful stories about the plant that can connect with customers on a personal level, showing the positive influence of cannabis on their lifestyle.
A genuine passion and appreciation for cannabis and its uses leads to the best customer connections. Show potential employers how much you care about cannabis and want to share that enthusiasm with others.
Know your cannabis products
You don’t have to start out as an expert by any means, especially because much of the job involves learning as you go. That being said, it’s important to brush up on general terminology and consumption methods, and have a solid understanding of how the plant is grown.
Become familiar with:
- Different cannabis effects (sleepy, relaxed, energetic, focused, uplifting)
- Cannabis types (sativa, indica, hybrid)
- Some of the more common terpenes (myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene)
- Concentrate consistencies and extraction methods (shatter vs. wax, butane vs. ethanol)
- Vape oil types (distillate vs. full-spectrum)
- Edible dosing
While personal experimentation with products is a fun way to gain first-hand knowledge, online resources are your best friend for the more technical learning. Discover thousands of strains right here on Leafly, as well as our Learn and Cannabis 101 sections.
You can also visit individual brand websites for information about specific products and production methods.
It’s also important to stay on top of new trends and products, which are always changing in the cannabis industry in order to give customers the best recommendations. One of the best ways to keep up to speed is to monitor social media and industry blogs.
Become familiar with a dispensary’s menu before an interview, especially its top-selling products. To learn this, simply ask the dispensary’s current budtenders or research the location’s menu online at Leafly—the reviews section in particular can be helpful to see which products customers are calling out by name.
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Be adaptable in a quickly changing industry
Adaptability is crucial to being a successful budtender, even in more stable, long-running markets such as Colorado and California. With cannabis legislation still evolving, policies and operations in dispensaries can change often.
New laws can add or remove processes to your budtending duties, and state cannabis bureaus often make surprise visits to cannabis dispensaries to make sure all regulations and policies are being upheld correctly.
Many small cannabis companies operate under a start-up mentality, so budtenders need to be flexible and take on many different responsibilities. Entry-level employees and upper management usually work together regularly.
This also offers great opportunities of upward mobility for budtenders, so if you’re interested in advancing in the cannabis industry, don’t be shy in asking about opportunities for growth in the role during an interview.